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The nature of space and matter, God and proportionate causalit

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  • The nature of space and matter, God and proportionate causalit

    There is an objection against theism that goes like this: how could God, as an immaterial being, create a material universe? By the principle of proportionate causality, whatever perfection is in the effect must also be found in the cause in some way. But then how could an immaterial God create a material universe?

    This objection can be defeated by simple modus tollens using common arguments from natural theology. All physical reality is contingent, so the necessary cause (God) is immaterial. Or, in the Kalam, all physical reality had a beginning, and so the cause is immaterial. Etc. A fortiori, the immaterial First Cause can create physical reality.

    But this is an indirect response. It is perfectly adequate in a dialectical context. But I want a direct reply because I am interested in the underlying metaphysical issue: the claim that matter involves perfections that an immaterial cause (like God) would lack. So I want a direct answer. The standard answer (which I accept, and which I also happen to find intuitive) is that material entities are actually less perfect; they are entities which are inherently limited to particular spatio-temporal dimensions; material things are finite entities and their being and operations are limited to the boundaries we study in physics.

    Pruss briefly discusses this in his Leibnizian arguments article:

    "A different kind of objection to the axiom [the principle of proportionate causality] is an ad hominem one: the axiom is incompatible with theism, because the peculiar perfections of material objects can only be found in material objects. Thus, the cause of material objects, God, must either lack some of the perfections of material objects, in which case the axiom is false, or else God is material, contrary to theistic orthodoxy. However, the axiom as Aquinas understands it allows that a more eminent version of a perfection could be found in the cause than in the effect. It could be that omnipresence is helpful here. Thus, God’s omnipresence could be a more eminent version both of perfections of shape and movement. Thus, the earth is spherical, and God is not spherical (pace Xenophanes), but God by his omnipresence is also everywhere where the earth is, and so he has a more eminent version of sphericity. The cheetah certainly can run fast, whereas God cannot run, but God is always already where the cheetah’s run ends, while also being at the starting line."

    One can also note that while immaterial substances have potentialities for consciousness, semantic intentionality, reason and concepts, matter does not, limited as it is to particularity and spatiotemporally limited acts. In fact, recognition of these inherent limitations of matter is what drives most naturalist accounts of the mind, being the main motivation for reductive accounts.

    Anyway, I want a deeper treatment of this. If anyone has read Aristotle's Revenge, what does Feser say about matter and space? How do you think he would respond?

  • #2
    Hi, Atno. You write:

    Originally posted by Atno View Post
    But I want a direct reply because I am interested in the underlying metaphysical issue: the claim that matter involves perfections that an immaterial cause (like God) would lack. So I want a direct answer. The standard answer (which I accept, and which I also happen to find intuitive) is that material entities are actually less perfect; they are entities which are inherently limited to particular spatio-temporal dimensions; material things are finite entities and their being and operations are limited to the boundaries we study in physics.
    It must be remembered that proportional causality cannot be understood univocally. It is rather understood analogously. As Dolezal writes:

    The underlying maxim is that all effects preexist eminently in their proper causes. Rather than posing a problem for the ipsum esse susbistens doctrine, though, the commonness of being among creatures actually demands just such a conception of God insofar as he is the first efficient cause of all creaturely existence...the creature does not participate in the divine esse by receiving ipsum esse subsistens as its intrinsic principle of existence; rather the creature participates in God's esse as a produced likeness of it...In causing the esse of creatures by his act of creation God produces an imperfect likeness of his own perfect act of existence...The explanation for the chain of being cannot be a part of that chain unless one were to hold, in monistic fashion, that being in general is itself an undiversified self-subsistent being.

    Dolezal goes on to write:

    In his later writings Thomas appears to have revised his earlier conclusion that the analogy of proper proportion (or analogy of intrinsic attribution) cannot be applied to the relation between God and the creature by accepting that "proper proportion" may also be understood as a two-term analogy and thereby not require a "definite relation" as conceived in a three-term analogy. He concludes, instead, that one term, such as esse, can be predicated of both God and creatures according to the same res significata on account of the relation creatures have to God as their ultimate cause. The esse of the creature is a distinct likeness of the divine esse and even derives its name and intelligibility from God's esse. Even so, this is not an agreement of proportion in which God and creatures are simply modally distinct instantiations of some abstract or general concept of being. Rather, the meaning of the common term is identical with God's own Godhead and only applies analogously to the creature as God's effects being some likeness to their proper cause.

    One could as easily ask that if creatures are composites, why isn't God composite? If creatures are effects, why isn't God an effect? If God causes passive potency, must He not also have passive potency? The answer to all of these questions is obviously no. Act precedes potency for no potency can raise itself to act, and the causal chain necessarily stops at Pure Act which cannot, by definition, be created or duplicated. It is as metaphysically impossible for God to create a simple being as it is for God to go out of existence. So, creation is of necessity imperfect and finite. Since God is not an instance of any kind, creation is a different order of being altogether.

    Imagine a king who does not use currency; he simply takes whatever he wants. He has the authority to order his treasury to mint a $20.00 coin to a particular subject. The coin represents purchasing power, so the recipient of the coin has power analogous to the king's, albeit in a very limited way. The fact that the subject was given something analogous to what the king has in no manner implies that he has all the king's power. The king can of his own will grant a level of authority to his subjects, but he cannot give all his power to his subjects and remain king. Granting limited power in no manner implies limitation in the king.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Scalia View Post
      Hi, Atno. You write:



      It must be remembered that proportional causality cannot be understood univocally. It is rather understood analogously. As Dolezal writes:

      The underlying maxim is that all effects preexist eminently in their proper causes. Rather than posing a problem for the ipsum esse susbistens doctrine, though, the commonness of being among creatures actually demands just such a conception of God insofar as he is the first efficient cause of all creaturely existence...the creature does not participate in the divine esse by receiving ipsum esse subsistens as its intrinsic principle of existence; rather the creature participates in God's esse as a produced likeness of it...In causing the esse of creatures by his act of creation God produces an imperfect likeness of his own perfect act of existence...The explanation for the chain of being cannot be a part of that chain unless one were to hold, in monistic fashion, that being in general is itself an undiversified self-subsistent being.

      Dolezal goes on to write:

      In his later writings Thomas appears to have revised his earlier conclusion that the analogy of proper proportion (or analogy of intrinsic attribution) cannot be applied to the relation between God and the creature by accepting that "proper proportion" may also be understood as a two-term analogy and thereby not require a "definite relation" as conceived in a three-term analogy. He concludes, instead, that one term, such as esse, can be predicated of both God and creatures according to the same res significata on account of the relation creatures have to God as their ultimate cause. The esse of the creature is a distinct likeness of the divine esse and even derives its name and intelligibility from God's esse. Even so, this is not an agreement of proportion in which God and creatures are simply modally distinct instantiations of some abstract or general concept of being. Rather, the meaning of the common term is identical with God's own Godhead and only applies analogously to the creature as God's effects being some likeness to their proper cause.

      One could as easily ask that if creatures are composites, why isn't God composite? If creatures are effects, why isn't God an effect? If God causes passive potency, must He not also have passive potency? The answer to all of these questions is obviously no. Act precedes potency for no potency can raise itself to act, and the causal chain necessarily stops at Pure Act which cannot, by definition, be created or duplicated. It is as metaphysically impossible for God to create a simple being as it is for God to go out of existence. So, creation is of necessity imperfect and finite. Since God is not an instance of any kind, creation is a different order of being altogether.

      Imagine a king who does not use currency; he simply takes whatever he wants. He has the authority to order his treasury to mint a $20.00 coin to a particular subject. The coin represents purchasing power, so the recipient of the coin has power analogous to the king's, albeit in a very limited way. The fact that the subject was given something analogous to what the king has in no manner implies that he has all the king's power. The king can of his own will grant a level of authority to his subjects, but he cannot give all his power to his subjects and remain king. Granting limited power in no manner implies limitation in the king.
      The objection is not that God is limited because he creates limited beings or cannot create pure act. Rather, the objection is that matter has specific positive perfections which immaterial beings (like God) would lack, so either God is material or we would have an effect that is greater than the cause (material perfections coming from beings that do not have them).

      I am asking how we can avoid that by holding that there are no positive material perfections; that matter is that which is intrinsically limited, etc. So that matter fan e said to be lesser than immaterial substances. That seems to me the best response, but I wonder how Feser's view of matter would work here.

      Comment


      • #4
        Respectfully, Atno, I think I answered that question. Matter's characteristics (perfections, if you will) are analogous to God's. The king doesn't possess or use $20.00 gold coins, but he has the power to cause their creation and to bestow them on subjects. The coin represents in a very imperfect way the power of the king. Similarly, the perfections of matter are extremely imperfect representations of God's eminent existence. Matter exists in a particular way, and that is analogous to God's existence, albeit imperfectly.

        Comment

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